An enduring image from the 2019 State of the Union address: a bloc of Democratic congresswomen, dressed in “suffragette white,” sitting in cold-faced silence as colleagues cheered President Trump’s request for “Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.”
Trump had just spoken about a plan for nationwide paid family leave – comments that were evidently well-received – but then juxtaposed the idea of a mother bonding with a newborn baby with recent controversies over late-term abortion and infanticide.
“There could be no greater contrast to the beautiful image of a mother holding her infant child than the chilling displays our nation saw in recent days,” he said.
“Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth,” Trump continued, referring tothe state’s Reproductive Health Act, signed into law a fortnight ago by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who hailed it as “the most aggressive women’s equality platform in the nation.”
“These are living, feeling, beautiful, babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world,” the president said.
“And then, we had the case of the Governor of Virginia, where he stated he would execute a baby after birth,” he told the hushed House chamber, in reference to Gov. Ralph Northam’s explanation a week ago about how a born child could be allowed to die under proposed legislation in Virginia.
“To defend the dignity of every person,” Trump said, “I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.”
The words were met with enthusiastic cheers from many, but as the camera panned the chamber, the contrast between standing, applauding lawmakers and the impassive seated women in white was stark.
“Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life,” Trump went on. “And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: all children – born and unborn – are made in the holy image of God.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), seated behind the president and also wearing white and cream, also sat immobile through the comments on abortion and protection of innocent life.
Moments earlier, Pelosi had joined many others standing and clapping after Trump spoke about including in his budget “a plan for nationwide paid family leave – so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child.”